Social media platforms are known to offer different services. One of their best uses is messaging. In fact, Twitter – one of the social media giants – started as an SMS. 

Messaging in social media is more advanced than texting. Users can contact other users no matter where they are. Therefore, social media platforms enable global communication. 

Facebook is one of the leading social media websites. It has three messaging platforms: Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. While they are all useful in communication, they have different uses. Each messaging platform has its own unique features and qualities. Due to their differences, one platform could be more appropriate for a particular task than the other. Users have the privilege to choose according to their preferences.

Facebook Messenger's Dilemma Regarding Encryption of Messages

Difference Between Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp

WhatsApp and Messenger are the two most popular mobile messaging apps. The former ranks first with more than 1.5 billion users. Then, Facebook Messenger follows closely.

There are many differences between the two. For instance, on WhatsApp, users can only message people or numbers they know. On the other hand, on FB Messenger, users can search, browse, and message anyone on the site. Indeed, that includes people they do not know. 

Another key difference lies in the privacy involved. On WhatsApp, messages are encrypted. It ensures that only the sender and the receiver know the content of the message. Not even Facebook can read it. However, on FB Messenger, that is not the case. The company even admits that it is monitoring the content. 

If you first hear of it, that could push your buttons. However, Facebook says it does that not with malicious intentions. It says the company is monitoring content just like how it does with public content in the social media platform. This is to stop “sensational messages” from going through to prevent abuse. 

Facebook Messenger's Dilemma Regarding Encryption of Messages

Still, even with this explanation, Messenger users are not happy about it.

Messenger’s Upcoming Security Update

 Facebook has been in many controversies concerning the privacy of its users. As mentioned above, it has admitted monitoring the contents of “private” messages. Furthermore, Tommy Mysk, and Talal Haj Bakry reported it secretly downloads files and links shared between users. The two are known for their research that caught TikTok for indiscriminately reading Apple users’ clipboards. Thus, when it comes to privacy, they are credible sources of information. 

Two years ago, Facebook announced that it is widening WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption. This way, they can protect messages sent via Messenger or Instagram. However, all the users got are announcements of delays after delays. Until now, Facebook can still spy on their messages. 

Facebook has said in previous statements that the process will take a long time. They say adding end-to-end encryption to an already existing system is more complicated than building it from scratch. While it is slow already, several raising concerns take the process to a crawl. The most recent delay, for example, is caused by raising fears about encryption allowing child abusers to run free on the platform.

Encryption Will Expose Children to Avoidable Harm

Social media platforms are so prominent that even children have their own accounts. They use platforms like Facebook either for entertainment or educational purposes. 

Unfortunately, much to everyone’s dislike, horrible people exist. Some take joy or even profit from abusing children and minors. Like everyone else, they are on social media too.

Since users can message anyone on FB Messenger, abusers and pedophiles can contact unsuspecting children. It could lead to “grooming” or abuse. 

This is where the enforcers of the law clash with tech companies. Most tech companies are advocating end-to-end encryption to protect their users. However, law enforcers state that stronger encryption also causes danger. 

Young Adults and Children Buy Facebook Followers to Boost Online Reputation

In the current version of Messenger, they can intercept these messages. Also, since they can view the contents of the messages, they can use them as evidence during an investigation. This is form of measuring someone’s online reputation, and young people and kids alike buy Facebook Followers for this very reason. For example, in a recent case in the UK, investigators brought a pedophile to justice. The investigators say they would not have been able to do it if messages in Messenger were encrypted. 

NSPCC, one of the world’s leading children’s advocacy groups, is very vocal about stopping the update. They say the update risks the platform “failing to protect children from avoidable harm.” 

To emphasize it, the NSPCC told Forbes that “10% of child sexual offenses on Facebook-owned platforms take place on WhatsApp.” However, they account for only less than 2% of what they report to the police. Why? Because they cannot view the messages’ content, they do not have strong evidence.  

When asked about it, Facebook said encrypting messages would not impact its ability to flag and prevent such online harm. However, when U.K. lawmakers asked the company’s head of global policy management, she gave a different answer. The question was if reports of cases of child abuse might “disappear” once encryption is in place. Monika Bickert said the numbers are expected to go down. 

Facebook Messenger's Dilemma Regarding Encryption of Messages

What Should Users Do?

There are benefits and harms on both sides. If Messenger does not encrypt, the privacy of users is not secured. On the flip side, if it encrypts, it will put children in danger.

Advocates say shielding content will complicate things. Meanwhile, tech companies say there is more harm in weaker encryption. Furthermore, they imply the government loses its ability to spy on people with end-to-end encryption in place. That could be why they are so adamant about stopping the security update.

 It puts FB Messenger in a dilemma. Which one has more downsides? It is what they say is a situation where the company must choose its poison.

But, let us not forget users can also play a significant role in this. For example, it is recommended that they use WhatsApp for conversations they want to remain private. For casual communications and for talking to kids, Messenger should be the platform they use. 

Parents can also make their children quit Messenger. However, if they do that, they would have to look for a different way to communicate. 

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